An Italian prosecutor on Friday said that “more than 700, maybe 800″ bodies are contained within the wreckage of the migrant boat that sank 85 miles off the coast of Libya on 18 April. The boat has been located by the Italian Navy and an effort may be made to recover the bodies. It is at a depth of 375 metres. Fewer than 30 people were rescued at the time of the accident and only 24 bodies have been recovered so far.
Category Archives: Italy
The UN Security Council will meet on Monday, 11 May, to consider the situation in the Mediterranean. HRVP Federica Mogherini will brief the Security Council. Italy has circulated a draft resolution among European members of the Security Council. ANSA reports that the European members of the UN Security Council have reached an agreement and are “very close” to being able to circulate a draft resolution. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the goal is to get “a legal framework” to “perform individual operations against traffickers.” Gazzetta Del Sud reports that “European sources said next Monday’s Security Council meeting will be a ‘first step’ to assess what kind of mandate might be needed for European operations against migrant traffickers. It is not likely that meeting will come up with a resolution, the sources said. European High Foreign Representative Federica Mogherini will present a May 18 council of EU foreign ministers with various security and defense options.” Russia has already said that it would veto a resolution authorising military strikes, but that it might consider supporting “a more restricted mandate for any EU military mission, which could involve a search and rescue role alongside powers to stop and seize smugglers’ boats at sea.”
Reuters and other news agencies report that rescued survivors arriving today in Sicily told Save the Children that about 40 persons died – other survivors reported that “lots” of people died – after “dozens of people fell into the sea when they saw the merchant ship approach” their overloaded rubber dinghy. The migrant boat left Libya and was rescued on Sunday south of Sicily.
Highlights from Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2015 – Detections of Illegal Border-Crossing Between Border Crossing Points
Frontex released its Annual Risk Analysis 2015 (also here) on 28 April. Over the next few days I will post some key points and excerpts from portions of the 70 page report which are most relevant to migration by sea. See Executive Summary and Statistical Annex.
This post contains excerpts and key points from the ARA, Section 3, Situational Picture in 2014 / Detections of illegal border-crossing between border crossing points:
• In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring;
• With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening;
• Syrians and Eritreans did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States;
• As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014;
• Around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014;
• Civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea. More than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014;
• An increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area;
• In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014);
• In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.;
• Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.
“3.3. Detections of illegal border-crossing between BCPs [along land and sea routes in 2014]
In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring. This unprecedented number of migrants crossing illegally the external border has roots in the fighting in Syria that have created the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Indeed, most of the detections at the borders concern migrants from Syria, who later applied for asylum within the EU. [***]
With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening and obtaining information on basic characteristics like their nationality. As migrants quickly continue their journey to other Member States, increasing the movements of persons staying illegally within the EU, this puts the EU internal security at risk. [***]
Indeed, Syrians alone (79 169) represented more than a quarter (28%) of the total as shown in Figure 3. [SEE BELOW.] They were also the top nationality for other indicators, in particular asylum applications, reflecting the dire situation in Syria and the desperate plight of Syrian asylum seekers. However, the vast majority of Syrians did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States for many different reasons, notably because they expect to receive more attractive welfare benefits.
Regarding Eritreans, their detections in 2014 reached a record level (more than 34 500, compared to 11 300 in 2013). They were mostly arriving through Libya on the Central Mediterranean route. Like Syrians, they did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry, but rather continued to other Member States. Many of the Eritreans stated that they had lived for some time in Libya but decided to leave because of the violence.
Detections of Afghans sharply increased from about 9 500 in 2013 to more than 22 000 in 2014. Afghans were detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route (mostly crossing the Eastern Aegean Sea), and then once again on the Western Balkan route. [***]
Central Mediterranean route
In 2014, more than 170 000 migrants arrived irregularly in the EU through the Central Mediterranean route (see Fig. 4).[SEE BELOW.] As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014. Detections were the largest between June and September at over 20 000 per month, but throughout the year, monthly detections were larger than in 2013. Most migrants were Syrians and Eritreans departing from the Libyan coast.
The vast majority were rescued by border-control authorities after issuing a distress call; however, despite best efforts there were many fatalities. Smugglers typically make use of frail, overcrowded boats, with limited fuel available to maximise their profits, putting migrants’ lives at considerable risk. The role of the Italian Navy and the JO Hermes/ Triton was crucial in rescuing an unprecedented number of migrants. Despite these efforts, around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014 and around 2 800 since the beginning of July according to UNHCR estimates.
Besides naval assets, civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea (see Fig. 5). [SEE BELOW.] According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), more than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014. These deviations are, in the words of the Secretary General, detrimental to shipping and are not offset by any realistic prospects of salvage awards.
In addition to migrants leaving from Libya, since September 2014, an increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area. This practice is further developed under the section related to the Eastern Mediterranean route.
As migrants were rescued in high-sea, they were reported as part of the Central Mediterranean route. Many were disembarked in Apulia and Calabria, to alleviate the burden on reception capacity in Sicily. From a statistical point of view, these disembarkations artificially inflated the number of migrants usually reported on the Apulia and Calabria route. In 2014, there were fewer migrants departing from Egypt and targeting this area of the Italian coast than in 2013. [***]
Eastern Mediterranean route
Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a hotspot of irregular migration (see Fig. 6). In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported from the area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014). Detections remained comparatively much lower at the Bulgarian and Greek land borders with Turkey (12 262 in 2013 and 5 938 in 2014).
Compared to the previous year, the sharp increase in the Aegean Sea in 2014 meant that migrants departed from more areas, and also arrived on a larger number of islands. While the islands reporting the largest number of arrivals remained Lesbos, Chios and Samos, detections were also reported from small islands from North to South, stretching capacity of surveillance. Many migrants claimed to be Syrian, and were thus handed an administrative notice allowing them to stay in Greece for up to six months, even without applying for asylum.
Screening processes of some migrants revealed a high degree of falsely claimed nationalities to avoid return. Not knowing the nationality of migrants who are illegally crossing the border and travelling within the EU is evidently a vulnerability for EU internal security. [***]
Increasing use of cargo ships
Since August 2014 the number of irregular migrants arriving in the Central Mediterranean from Turkey sharply increased compared to earlier in the year and to the same period in 2013. This sharp increase was directly related to the use of cargo ships to facilitate migrants and asylum seekers from Turkey to Italy (for example, see Fig. 7).
To date, Mersin has been the place where those wishing to travel to the EU in an irregular fashion have made contact with the smuggling networks. Wooden boats, however, have departed from various points along south-eastern Turkish coast such as Mersin, Adana and Hatay provinces to reach cargo vessels waiting off shore.
Smuggling migrants from Turkey on board large cargo vessels is extremely profitable, and such funds are likely to be an important source of income for smuggling networks also engaged in other criminal activities. This means that the criminal networks might be financing other criminal activities by exploiting and putting at risk vulnerable groups of displaced families from Syria.
Specifically, the cargo ships, which are often bought as scrap, tend to cost between EUR 150 000 and 400 000. There are often as many as 200–800 migrants on board, each paying EUR 4 500–6 000 for the trip, either in cash a few days before the departure or by Hawala payment after reaching the Italian coast. The cost is high because the modus operandi is viewed as being safe and has been demonstrated as being successful.
Hence, the gross income for a single journey can be as high as EUR 2.5 or even 4 million depending on the size of the vessel and the number of migrants on board. In some cases, the profit is likely to be between EUR 1.5 and 3 million once other overheads such as recruiters, safe houses, shuttle vessels, crew and fuel have been taken into account. Given this level of financial gain it is important to act against this modus operandi not only to stem the flow of irregular migration but also to limit the financial assets of the smuggling networks. [***]
Western Mediterranean route
In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.
Like in 2013, the first half of 2014 showed most detections being reported at the land border, mostly from Melilla. Indeed, the Spanish authorities reported several violent attempts to cross the fence.
As mitigating measures, the fence has been upgraded. As a result, in the second half of the year, Spain reported more detections at the sea border than at the land border.
Once in Melilla, migrants are turned over to Spanish Police Headquarters for identification, and many are transferred to the Temporary Centre for Immigrants (CETI – Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes). However, this centre only has a limited capacity and some migrants had to be transferred to mainland Spain.
In terms of nationality, most of the migrants are from Western Africa, in particular from Cameroon and Mali. Algerians and Moroccans have also been reported among the top ten nationalities, but mostly at the sea border.
Since November 2014, Spain also reported an increase in detections of illegal border-crossing of Syrians at the land border (more than 250 in November and December), then applying for asylum. This increase, combining with increasing detections of Syrians using forged document to enter to the EU, has prompted Spain to open asylum and international protection offices at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla in March 2015.
Black Sea route
Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.
These incidents still constitute isolated cases, and are possibly linked to the increased surveillance on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the increasing number of migrants waiting in Turkey to reach the EU illegally. [***]”
The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region – A Global Detention Project Background Paper
The Global Detention Project just released a Background Paper, “The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region,” which “is intended to highlight some of the vulnerabilities that people seeking international protection face when they are taken into custody in Mediterranean countries and to underscore the way that European Union-driven policies have impacted the migratory phenomenon in the region.”
Summary: “With the recent tragic surge in the number of deaths at sea of asylum seekers and other migrants attempting to reach Europe, enormous public attention is being focused on the treatment of these people across the Mediterranean. An important migration policy employed throughout the region is detention, including widespread deprivation of liberty of asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups. …
The report focuses on eight key countries in Europe and North Africa. While there are clear differences in treatment from one side of the Mediterranean to the next, looked at collectively, the protection environment across all the countries in the region is bleak. Not surprisingly, the conditions of detention asylum seekers face in North African countries are often horrific and inhumane. However, in Europe, there are also serious shortcomings. In fact, as this backgrounder reports, reception and detention conditions in three of Europe’s main asylum receiving countries (Greece, Italy, and Malta) are so inadequate that many of their EU counterparts have been forced to halt returns to these countries under the Dublin III Regulation.”
“Drowned Europe“, policy brief by Philippe FARGUES and Anna DI BARTOLOMEO, Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, Florence.
The drowning of 800 migrants, 19 April 2015, after the capsizing of a smuggling boat, triggered responses from across Europe. But when EU leaders met four days later, the news-cycle had moved on and the European Council, 23 April, gave a disappointing response. The 28 agreed to scale up their joint search-and-rescue efforts at sea to the more substantial efforts of what Italy has achieved alone in the last year. There were, also, a handful of other minor actions. Mr Junker, President of the Commission, lamented that the EU should be more ambitious. He was right, in as much as the EU meeting will not sustainably curb the deadly trends we have seen in the Mediterranean in recent years.
Libya Group With Control Over Tripoli and Libya’s Western Coast Says It Will “Confront” Unilateral EU Attacks on People Smuggler Sites
Libya Dawn, “[t]he group controlling Libya’s coastal capital Tripoli [and the Mediterranean coastal areas to the east and west of Tripoli] says it will ‘confront’ any unilateral European Union moves to attack sites used by people smugglers, urging the [EU] to consult it over plans to deal with the migration crisis.” (Click here for Guardian article-reporting based on Times of Malta interview with the group’s foreign minister.)
The political and security situation in Libya is complicated. And while migrant boats tend to depart from areas around Tripoli because the area is closer to Lampedusa and Malta, boats leave from eastern areas of Libya as well. If the EU does end up taking military action in Libya, it will necessarily engage with different militias and political groups.